How To Network in a Foreign Country

A few things have been going on at work this week. First, my fellow interns and I have been peer reviewing each other's papers. D4D is getting ready to publish a series of papers on the economy, governance, social development, rule of law, visa liberalization, and the Stabilization and Association Agreement between Kosovo and the European Union. As I've been focused primariliy on the rule of law paper these past few weeks, it's been nice to see what the other interns are working on and to learn more about different facets of Kosovo's development.

Secondly, we've continued the political ideology project, which means continuing to call and interview political leaders. Election results are still being finalized, but elections passing have had some interesting effects on this project. The party who had the majority of the seats before the elections was more willing to meet with us before election day. Now that elections have passed and they have retained the majority of the parliamentary seats, it's much harder to get them to meet with us. Also, a smaller party who wasn't willing to meet with us at all before the elections has been much more willing to let us interview them now that elections are over. 

Lastly, I'm working on a project proposal for a paper about the use of two-way videoconferencing as a means of securing witness testimony in war crimes trials in Kosovo. A EULEX judge recommended the project to Erica and I since videoconferencing would be useful to combat witness intimidation and expedite the backlog of cases in Kosovo's judicial system. I mentioned the project to my boss, who is interested in exploring the issue further, which means that I've been frequenting legal databases when I'm not busy with my other projects. If my boss likes the proposal, he might allow me to write a policy brief on the issue, which he said he would consider for publication.

Beyond what I'm doing at work, I thought it would be usfeul to write about an issue that I think is important for law students who decide to go abroad for their summer job. As there is a flurry of cover letter writing right now in Erica's and my apartment in preparation for our 2L summer job search, networking has been on my mind. Here are examples of how I've managed to network abroad:

(1) Seeking out alumni.

Erica and I are fortunate that a William & Mary Law alumnus is working in Kosovo; this isn't the case for everyone. Meeting a William & Mary alumnus who is a EULEX judge presiding over war crimes cases has been one of the highlights of my internship so far. This alumnus has given Erica and me a wealth of career advice, allowed us to sit in on one of his trials, and has generally helped us aclimate to Kosovo. This past week, Erica and I heard about his perspective on judicial issues over dinner at a traditional Albanian restaurant and bonded over William & Mary sweatshirts and The Paper Chase. My experience has been that William & Mary alumni will bend over backwards to help out current students in whatever way they can; this has turned out to be particularly true in a foreign context where that extra support is so needed and appreciated. 

I'm proud to go to a school that has graduates who are doing amazing things all over the world. If you're a student thinking about interning internationally, definitely find out if there are any alumni working in whatever country you're interning in; it will most definitely one of the greatest rewards you'll get out of your experience abroad.

(2) Making connections through work.

As I'm interested in international development issues, D4D has afforded me excellent opportunities to meet USAID workers, journalists, politicians, and others who are genuinely interested in the issues that interest me. This past week, for instance, my boss hosted a barbecue at his house. At the barbecue, I saw the USAID worker who I had coffee with a few weeks ago. He was returning to Virginia the next day, and told me to keep him informed about my internship in Kosovo. The former Dutch ambassador to Kosovo was also at the barbeque, so it was interesting to hear about his experiences working in Kosovo during its first years of independence. 

Erica also gets to interact with people working with the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) on a regular basis. An intern can meet some amazing people through her boss and co-workers; taking advantage of those opportunities has helped Erica and I to get acquainted with very interesting people.

(3) Getting involved in the community.

This past Wednesday, a friend invited me to attend a rotary club meeting in Pristina. I wasn't sure what to expect, but decided to check it out. I'm so glad I did. A variety of community leaders are involved in the rotary club - a high school prinicipal, the mayor of a small town outside of Pristina, a man who helps advise the Parliament, members of the U.S. military, and many others. I was able to hear about the issues that people in the community are concerned about, from election results to the water quality. 

At the meeting, I sat across from a woman who works at PILPG. After talking about my interests, she gave me her card and told me I should think about PILPG during my 2L summer job search. I emailed her and we're having coffee in a few weeks when she gets back from leave. A night spent learning more about the local community led to the opportunity to learn more about a very interesting individual with a very interesting career - a good night all around.

(4) Pursuing traditional channels of networking.

Erica and I have had to put our nose to the grindstone to do the more traditional forms of 2L summer job searching. We've set specific times during the week to go to cafes to research and work on cover letters. Erica has also had a Skype externship interview. Working in a country with rare (if nonexistent) power outages and ubiquitous internet access has allowed us to conduct our 2L summer job search mostly as we would at home, minus being able to just pick up the phone and call law firms. Many people have been perfectly willing to answer questions via email as well, once they know that we are out of the country.

I've been relieved that networking is completely doable abroad. Granted, some countries are harder to network in than others, such as those that don't offer easy access to the internet. This experience, however, has helped me to adapt my job search to my current environment. And, of course, it has helped that my career interests have largely aligned with the interests of those working around me.

Erica and I made a friend who works for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Because of this, we went on an adventure this past weekend in a rented UN vehicle to Tirana, Vlore, and Kruje, Albania. We stopped in beautiful Prizren, Kosovo, on the way back:

The Balkan countries are beautiful; I'm so glad we got to explore them more this weekend.